Sunday, April 13, 2014

iWander | Because I want to…

Concluding post to the iWander series on solo travelling to Kutch and Velas
-- 

From the almost disbelieving "How many days of paid leave are you really entitled to in a year?” to the slightly irritable “You are always travelling. Are you ever around?” I’ve heard it all over the past few months. Ever since I discovered within me the nerve to travel solo.

To be honest I’m entitled to 29 days of leave INCLUDING all public holidays. And in those 29 days I’ve travelled a little over 7000 kms having been to Wayanad, Ladakh, Coorg, Goa, Kutch and lastly Velas. And I’ve travelled only for pleasure (not work).

Which also means that for the remainder of the year, I’m living quite the sedentary lifestyle and doing things that revolve mostly around the  mundane.

Mundane.
Because it’s always going to be mundane in comparison to the exhilaration of discovering new places – man made and natural.
I’ve been to the Lamayuru, Hemis and Thiksey monasteries around Leh, the Eddakal Caves that date back to the Chalcolithic Age in Wayand, the Indus Valley Civilization site at Dholavira in Kutch that dates back to 2500 B.C.
I’ve been drawn into a reflective silence along the banks of the Tso Moriri in Ladakh and the White Rann in Kutch. I’ve had the blissful fortune of waking up every morning right in the middle of a coffee and spice garden plantation in Coorg and watching turtle hatchlings making a headway for the beach while soaking in the coastal beach of Velas
I’ve had the pleasure of watching elephants, sloth bears and deers strolling around wild and free in Wayanad, the Great Indian Bustard and a whole bunch of peacocks around Bhuj

And then again, I haven’t only explored new places but also discovered a whole new me during that process.
From the experiential sorts of acquiring a taste for locally brewed liquor be it in Chang in Ladakh or orange wine in Coorg to the introspective kind of realizing that I don’t get bored in my own company.

I guess this probably stems from the fact that I take off on my solo travels realizing fully well that this is meant to qualify as “me time”. In other words it’s time for me to catch up on some long overdue reading (my backpack will have no less than 3 books) and writing (or what I call ‘distilling thoughts’).

It’s also time to engage with a world that’s different from the one I live in for the 300 odd remainder days of the year. I’ve met a whole bunch of interesting people in the form of homestay hosts (such as this one to Ladakh), shopkeepers at the local markets and fellow-travellers too.

It’s through these interactions that I’ve learnt about them (that there are so many people out there who are doing their bit to make the world around them a better place) and I’ve even learnt much more about my own self too (that it inspires many others to actually travel solo, even if it means just once).

You’d think that I’ve only met people along my journeys but off late I’ve realized that, in what may seem strange but nevertheless holds true, I’ve also encountered books while traveling.
How?
So on a recent trip to Kutch I was thrilled to bits when I saw a modest bookshelf in my room at the homestay. Temptation had already gotten the better of me when in spite of the four books in my bag, I’d purchased a fifth at the railway station on my way to Bhuj. And now this! Needless to say, I not only completed reading two of the now five books but also exchanged one of them in lieu of another from the bookshelf. I now also concur that no matter how abnormal it may seem, books make for cool friends too!

But what solo travel really does for me is that it lets me disconnect from everything around me mostly by default (read: no access to data on the phone hence no emails work or otherwise; nor social media updates to give or receive).

And being this solo female traveller has taught me how to be adept and think on my feet. I’ve learnt what it means to deal with delays. 
And how delays can throw you off your otherwise well-planned trip. (Lesson learnt on my way to Coorg)
And how contingencies have to be figured out.
AND that calling your folks back home at that very second isn’t the wisest call you’d be making.

It means that all of the above has helped me become a lot more resourceful (for my own good).
Over the past year I’ve only gotten better at planning my travel budgets. I’m quite comfortable without necessarily being either too stingy or too liberal with my spending. And I love the independence that comes because of travelling.

It’s put my faith one-little-bit-at-a-time back into humanity because of what I’ve observed or have had the opportunity to experience through the genuine-acts-of-seemingly-random-and-hence-not-perceived-to-be-important-acts-of-kindness (New Year's in Goa shall never be forgotten).


So everything seems to be going great for this girl who’s found her love for travelling -- except that her sunblock's contents always remain untouched. 

I can almost hear Baz Luhrman  ;)

Been a constant companion since 2011! :-0 #DontDateAGirlWhoTravels

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